The Contrato platform project, Bridging the Digital Gap for Youth Lawyers, aims to transform the provision of legal services from analog to digital. Contrato strives to empower young lawyers, primarily women, with the requisite qualifications, to fill the general supply-demand gap long marring the sector.
The supply of university graduates far exceeds the demand in the labour market throughout Egypt. Over half a million youth graduate from university each year in Egypt. The number of university graduates has increased by almost 5.9% in 2018 alone, most of whom are from public universities (the annual higher education report, CAPMAS). There are over 12 law schools in Egypt, with Cairo University alone graduating at least 40,000/year. Despite being among the brightest, law graduates, particularly women, face multiple challenges to earn a living. Not surprisingly, the dramatic increase in the number of students has been coupled with a decline in education quality. The result is an oversupply of graduates with skills below market needs. The majority of those who graduate shift to other occupations that do not match their skills, remain unemployed or accept jobs in the legal field that are underpaying and without many developmental prospects. In a male-dominated industry with demanding working hours and no child-care services, many female lawyers tend to quit their jobs upon marriage. The professional prejudice is reinforced by employers’ preference to mainly invest time and train male lawyers purely for RoI.
Conversely, the demand for legal services and advising, in contrast to the classical perception of the legal profession as centering around litigation, remains high. However, given the relatively high costs associated with legal services, most individuals shy away from professional consultancies. Consequently, such individuals end up facing serious legal difficulties that could have otherwise been avoided.
Contrato offers an innovative approach to such challenges with the principal aim of empowering young lawyers, particularly females, to remain or (re)enter the job market. By establishing a state-of-the-art interactive online legal platform, specializing in contract templates and online legal consultations, Contrato bridges the gap between clients seeking legal services and law practitioners. Contrato’s platform overcomes the hurdles this particular target group faces by providing flexible working hours at decent compensation. On the one hand, platform users will have access to a variety of tailored contracts from the database and the option for professional consultancies by young lawyers at an attractive fee, thereby eliminating demand barriers. On the other, the project will provide upskilling training and certification to a pool of 860 young law graduates and professionals, particularly women, from all over Egypt by 2023. Special training curricula and certification processes will be developed by 2022 based on professional and international standards. By the end of the project, 560 young lawyers (460 females and 100 males) are expected to maintain livelihood opportunities through self-employment successfully. It is essential to highlight that 10 young lawyers out of the total number of lawyers will be trained to become trainers. That is, they will receive a tailor-made ToT to support the upskilling training of the rest of the group (850 young lawyers). While the project intends to focus on the five governorates mentioned above, the scope of the platform will include others as well spread out in both Upper Egypt and the Delta regions.
Contrato seeks to provide decent self-employment opportunities for young lawyers through establishing an innovative online platform for contractual legal services and consultancies. CFYE’s contribution to the project is integral to its implementation in terms of quality, scale, and specific target group focus. In order to reach the aforementioned objectives and enhance quality, Contrato will not only avail the online platform (which would have been the business as usual model) but would further seek to build the capacity of the target beneficiaries through designing curricula and conducting tailored made training and certification to onboard young lawyers, particularly women. Contrato’s regular business model does not include an upskilling or gender-focused strategy. The same applies to youth inclusion in the design and implementation of the project. In this regard, the Fund’s technical support is needed to develop both gender-specific and youth-centered strategies.
Moreover, with the Fund’s support, Contrato would be able to include a cost-share to the project by offering discounts from the Contrato platform to young lawyers using its interactive templates, as well as providing more remuneration to the beneficiaries of the project than their peers. Furthermore, with the support of the Fund, Contrato would be able to explore greater opportunities for scalability. Indeed, Contrato will have the opportunity to flag the idea of the platform with other private sector entities, donors, and development organizations to possibly scale up the results of this project (upon the successful pilot, after the first year of implementation) into various countries in Africa and/or elsewhere in the developing world where similar conditions pertain.